Watts polishes city’s image

15 Jul 2010 24 Hours Vancouver

DHARM MAKWANA – Build it and they will come. Devote every working minute to building it well over the last two decades, and they will come by the thousands.

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Mayor Dianne Watts smiles as she talks about Surrey.


Such is the case for Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

The First Lady of the Fraser Valley’s tireless schedule was evidenced at her appearance Wednesday at Central City Plaza where thousands came out to see the Stanley Cup.

She shook every hand, fielded every question from media and even got a moment to pose with Lord Stanley’s mug beside her daughters.

Asked if every day is like this, she answered, “ Yup,” and laughed.

For Watts, serving as mayor for the past five years after nine years as a city councillor, Wednesday’s frenzied excitement was just another day in building her city’s profile.

“ We’ve flown under the radar for a number of years,” she explained. “ This isn’t anything new we’ve just begun to do.”

It seems a month doesn’t go by without Watts and her council breaking ground or cutting ribbons for new housing developments, recreation centres, hospitals and places of higher education.

But for the all the bright signs of progress, dark clouds still seem to hover over Surrey.

On the same day Watts welcomed home her city’s son who achieved what every young hockey player dreams to do, another boy, 17-year-old Adem Aliu, died in a hail of bullets on the streets near 103 Avenue and 142 Street.

Watts, acutely aware of how crime has riddled her city’s reputation, said those who take this latest incident of apparent gang violence as a fact the city can’t change, have never crossed the Fraser River.

“ We are showing by example,” she began. “ Part of it is we have a thousand people a month moving into the city and if those messages were actually true we wouldn’t have that influx of people.

“ We have a third of our population under the age of 19 and that speaks to the fact that people are going to raise their families out here.

“ As a mother I can assure you that I would not raise my children here if I had any thought whatsoever that this was an unsafe city.”

Instead, Watts worries about building consensus and engaging her citizens to find solutions from within city limits.

“ We’re all in this together. This is where we live. It’s community, it’s council, it’s all of us and I think that everybody has a role to play. Gone are the days when you look to government to fix everything for you. When you bring people together I think it’s really important that everyone has a stake in the outcome.”

[Gangsters Out]